Live Reviews

Folk Rising: Karl Culley, Bird Radio and Arlet live @ Cecil Sharp House in London

Folk Rising live in London photo by Poyan Chan

Visiting Cecil Sharp House for the first time, this Grade II listed building, home of the English folk, certainly is iconic. Owned by English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS), the venue is dedicated to folk music, folk dance and creative learning. Folk Rising is one of the programmes organized by EFDSS, in partnership with The Nest Collective to showcase emerging folk music talents since 2010. Last week we had Karl Culley, Bird Radio and Arlet to perform for the 10th season of Folk Rising in Cecil Sharp house.

Discovering Karl Culley’s music not so long ago, I have been looking forward to see him perform live. As the first act of the night, Karl entered in the room quietly with double bassist Ash Johnson. Just like his music style, this humble looking singer-songwriter from Harrogate did not appear attention seeking, but there was this subtle, poetic quality in his performance that you cannot quite put into words, almost beautifully haunting. Known by his fingerpicking style, his guitar playing was truly impressive. Karl is one of few singers in recent years, who has developed serious solid guitar skills; with a Martin 000-15 acoustic guitar in his hand, you know he was not here to mess around. In contrast to his complex, rhythmic guitar playing, Karl’s voice sounded light, distant, and melancholic. This style somehow gave a sense of minimalism and otherness that went well with his poetic, story driven lyrics, some of which portrayed lighthearted dark comedies, others were just about troubled souls. As gloomy and intriguing as his songs might sound, his music was like a craft work with lots of fine details unfolding when you look closer, simply clever, stunning work. As a poet, guitarist and singer-songwriter, Karl Culley is very original and dedicated. Whilst some might label his music as folk blues, I would highly recommend his music to anyone.

Arlet is a pleasant surprise to anyone who listens to their music for the first time. Arlet arrived as an 8-piece chamber band, all smiling and cheerful, instantly setting a completely different tune in the house; Comprised of accordion, violin, clarinet, trumpet, tuba, guitar, cello and percussion, Arlet performed very delightful chamber folk music. While all members in the group showed professional skills with their instruments, it was the exceptional music composition that made the group outstand from others alike. The arrangements of stings, woodwind and bass were very well executed, creating a perfect harmony that resonated the joyful folk spirit. Their passion on music also shined through in their work. Arlet’s performance was sophistical and yet refreshing, filling the room with joy and hope instantly, truly amazing.

Also performing for the night we had Bird Radio, an one-man-band by Mikey Kirkpatrick. Mikey is a multi-instrumentalist, who sang and played on piano, keyboard, flute as well as a self-made bass drum. Wearing a cowboy outfit with a hat, Mikey certainly had a character, so as his performance. Mikey’s music is all about live experiment of mixing between instruments, together with his dramatic broadway-style singing. Bird Radio is definitely unique and playful.

Poyan Chan

I am Poyan Chan, a visual effects artist from Hong Kong, now based in London. I believe art appears in any forms, it is in paintings, writings, films, photos, and certainly in music. I love the idea that art is the creation inspired by life experience, and yet it transforms itself to surprise and inspire the others, essentially become part of our life. That is why I engage in the creative industry, I have participated in the post-production of numerous commercial films and adverts, I also got involved in several art exhibitions in the past. Outside of work I sketch, I take photos, hug my guitars, and occasionally I write. My music choice ranges from indie, alternative rock, grunge, folk to recently jazz and soul. To me nothing is underrated. We just have to get the unheard heard. That is what we are here for. Let the inspiration begin.

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